John’s thoughts on the Honeybee Symposium & ApiNZ Conference

Two conferences back to back – or more, the 1 day Honeybee research symposium followed by the ApiNZ conference. Part of the fun of the research symposium is being a co-organiser with a team that enjoys working together. Well, I enjoy working with *them* anyway.

As usual – this was the 4th such meeting – a wide range of topics were covered: from controlled studies of the ability of dogs to detect spores of the AFB bacteria P. larvae through to using swabs through the hive entrance to detect the presence of varroa in Australia. More than a little surreal to sit and watch this application having worked on the same sampling method over the past years for AFB detection (Foster method). It was great to catch up with John Roberts later on and discuss the work.

Rose McGruddy’s presentation (and probably her willingness to poke jabs at her supervisor Phil Lester) saw her take the student award for her presentation on using a promising tool to help combat varroa mite: the use of a special RNA molecule that interferes with the mites’ reproduction.

Claire McDonald, Anya Noble, Rose McGruddy, Evan Brenton-Rule & Alex Maan

Pictured: Claire McDonald, Anya Noble, Rose McGruddy, Evan Brenton-Rule & Alex Maan

And then we were into the main Apiculture NZ conference. This year we had a stand again and yes, showcasing the Foster method for AFB detection – a method that we developed over 5 years ago and put into the public domain 2 years ago. It was great to have the interaction with beekeepers and hear their issues and concerns with the control of AFB.

As for the conference itself – despite there being two of us on the dnature stand, I still managed to miss a few talks through talking to people on the stand. But no complaints from me.

Pictured: the dnature stand and Noa (dnature) speaking with Clifton King & Nick Wallingford

Peter Neumann gave a great plenary talk on the story behind the bee health network COLOSS. Their survey formed the basis behind New Zealand’s Colony Loss survey run each year by Pike Stahlmann-Brown. As well as the presentation (via Zoom), it was great to get the NZ perspective on hive losses and factors affecting colony health from both Pike and Oksana Borowik.

David Tarpy (USA) spoke on several topics during the conference – from data (or lack thereof) behind queen lifespans and also reinforcing beekeeping sayings that we tend to forget when the proverbial hits the fan. He was one of the authors behind the work some years ago showing the effects of both nosema species on bees (a double whammy on their lifespan) and was fascinated to hear that Nosema (now Varimorpha) ceranae had not taken over from V. apis here in New Zealand but indeed both could be found within the same (declining) hive.

I was fortunate to convene the varroa session which featured contributions from Phil Lester, Hayley Praegert (MPI), Michelle Taylor (Plant and Food Research) and Carlos Zevallos (Comvita). Varroa has hit many regions especially hard and has raised the question of how the varroa mite is becoming more tolerant of common miticide treatments (pyrethroids) despite not showing the very specific DNA changes seen in the rest of the world. The losses due to varroa continue to rise and are likely higher than noted since other issues behind colony losses (e.g. queen issues) may have varroa at their root.

Science posters were also present during the conference – from work by Stephanie Sopow and team on the Giant Willow Aphid through to wasp biocontrols (Bob Brown) and two from us as well: one on the Foster method for AFB detection and another on new methods to detect recently-described varroa mutations associated with resistance to amitraz. Stephanie’s work was further recognised by the award of the Peter Molan science prize at the conference dinner. Local beekeepers Barry Foster, Steve Jackson and I were humbled to jointly receive the Unsung Hero award  from Stuart Fraser for work on cyclone assistance and helping local beekeepers come together to share some difficult times. As I shared on LinkedIn, really it was just a good chance to have the occasional beer with Barry and Steve and talk bees !

All in all, thanks to the organisers who do so much work behind the scenes to deliver a great conference. Thanks for the sponsors, the MC’s and the hard working ApiNZ team.

Tags : AFB, AFB Foster Method, Apiculture conference, dnature, Honeybee symposium, John Mackay


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